Kick off: Ramsay Health Care Limited v Sonic Healthcare Limited

Place your bets: This healthcare match up could be too close to call!

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If you’re looking to add a top healthcare company to your portfolio, today’s match up in the Motley Fool’s ASX World Cup may provide some valuable insight into what’s right for your portfolio, as private healthcare company Ramsay Health Care Limited (ASX: RHC) takes on medical diagnostics company Sonic Healthcare Limited (ASX: SHL).

Both companies reported outstanding growth for the half year to 31 December 2013, so today’s matchup is likely to be close fought.

Let’s have a look at the key stats:

Factor Measure

Ramsay Health Care Ltd

(ASX: RHC)

Sonic Healthcare Limited (ASX: SHL)

Size Market cap $9.2 billion $6.8 billion
Operations EBIT margin %¹ 12% 14%
Growth Five year NPAT CAGR² 11.5% 1.2%
Balance sheet Debt/Equity ratio 1.65 0.91
Dividend % Yield 1.65% 3.77%

Notes: ¹Half Year to 31Dec 2013, ²Full Year results 2009-2013

Operations

The two companies are too close to call when it comes to their respective EBIT margins. Sonic Healthcare sneaks ahead, but the margins of both companies are expected to increase over the coming years as populations age and existing fixed costs get split over an increasing number of customers.

Goal: No goals

Growth

When it comes to earnings growth, there is no stopping Ramsay. The company has grown net profit after tax (NPAT) at an extraordinary rate, from $146.4 million in 2009 to $290.9 million in 2013. Over the same period earnings per share (eps) have grown from 74.1 cps to 135.9 cps.

Sonic Healthcare, for its part, is a much more consistent operator with NPAT growing from $315 million to $335 million over the last five years.

Goal: Ramsay Health Care

Balance sheet and dividend

Sonic Healthcare comes up the winner in a straight comparison of both dividend yield and balance sheet debt. However Ramsay’s higher debt and lower dividend yield are a product of its focus on growth, with shareholders pushing up the price of shares in anticipation that this growth will continue.

This is reflected in Ramsay’s current price to earnings ratio (p/e ratio) of 33, compared to Sonic Healthcare’s more moderate 18.

Goal: Sonic Healthcare

Fulltime!

We have a draw! Ramsay scored decisively as a growth focused company, while Sonic Healthcare scored one back as a reliable dividend payer with reasonable growth.

Both companies look fully priced today given their prospects, but are worthy of a place on your watchlist.

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Motley Fool contributor Regan Pearson does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article.

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